5 Questions That Movie Plots Never Seem to Answer
Most of the time, asking questions is a good thing. Think about where humans would be today if nobody had ever asked, "I wonder if that animal will let me use it as a chair?" or "Have you noticed that drinking this fermented bread makes everyone look more attractive?"
But the exception to this is when you're watching movies and TV shows. Here, the inability to turn off your logic-brain will not only ruin your immersion, but also destroy every friendship you have. Your former companions will gather around screens in other people's houses while you sit at home, eating popcorn salted with your own tears, and ask yourself: "Shouldn't a monster that big collapse under its own weight? Why didn't the police see the tracks leading up to Walter White's car? How long will it take for my ferret to eat me after I die?" So consider yourself warned: The following five questions may be capable of wrecking both your movie enjoyment and your social life forever. Let's start with ...
How Is Everybody Blow Drying Their Hair?
It's the end of the world. Reliable electricity is a forgotten dream. Gangs roam the Earth in post-apocalyptic clothing, fighting each other for scraps of pilot goggles and hobo gloves. The men are grizzled and bearded, because in this dark future blades are for stabbing, not for shaving. And then the women are running around like this:
More volume than any of their characters.
Look at those clean, voluminous tresses! In real life, long hair that's left to dry naturally without product will usually either hang limp against the scalp like depressed pasta or turn into a frizzy head-labyrinth. Nothing in nature produces those soft, perfectly symmetrical curls. They're the work of either a blow dryer and a round brush or a curling iron and a hell of a lot of mousse, and none of those things can be grown in someone's survivalist vegetable garden or rigged together out of the corpses of our new robotic overlords. You can get a similar look by wrapping your hair in rags or plastic curlers and leaving it like that overnight, but we see these women at night, and none of them is sporting a 1950s-style curlers-and-headscarf ensemble.
A zombie-apocalypse scene judged too shocking for viewers.
The post-apocalyptic phantom hair product problem has been going on for a long time. When Planet of the Apes came out in 1968, the female lead had '60s-style helmet hair that we were meant to believe had just grown that way. Twenty years later, post-apocalyptic women were suddenly blessed with feathery '80s dos. Of course, no one expects movies to be 100 percent realistic when it comes to appearances, but why do shows and movies that pride themselves on being gritty and realistic make everything gritty and realistic except women's hair? Is there a tough union of hair stylists that threatens to break directors' legs if they don't get enough working hours? Or do male costume designers assume that female hair is naturally that pretty and that loud gun-shaped machine in the bathroom is just what women use to blow their boobs into shape every morning?
The human female, seen here in its larval "six in the morning" stage.
How Are They Going to the Bathroom in Those Suits?
If you're a crime-fighting vigilante, or any kind of badass woman at all, then your movie-universe outfit of choice will always be a nice tight one-piece suit. And why not? It protects your skin from the elements, it won't get in the way when you're kicking things, and the sight of your sculpted abs will be sure to demoralize bad guys who are suffering from poor self-image.
En Sabah Nur's real battle began when he could not lose those last 10 pounds.
It's important to stay hydrated while fighting crime, though, and that is a problem, because it is almost impossible to pee while wearing any sort of superhero gear. Recently I made the mistake of wearing a one-piece Avengers costume to a Halloween party. By the time I got out of the bathroom after disassembling and reassembling the thing, the line outside was so long that hipsters were joining it ironically. Now imagine trying to squeeze in a bathroom break when you're also trying to track down and capture whole gangs of villains, like Batman, or spay and neuter all the stray kittens in Boston, like Superman (that's what Superman does, right? I didn't watch the last movie).
"God, why did I have tacos?"
At least Black Widow's suit looks like it unzips at the front, although taking off all those belts and armbands every time you need to pee must be a pain. But what about poor Batman? Is he wearing a diaper like astronauts have to? Did Lucius Fox design his suit to recycle fluids like the stillsuits in Dune? Are there times where Batman is trash-talking with some street punk, and then his eyes suddenly unfocus and he stares into the distance for a while and says "Ahhh, that's better" while the punk just stands there awkwardly and ignores the asparagus smell? Can you imagine Spider-Man or Captain America having to take off their suits to take a leak, leaving their masks on for anonymity as their buttocks shine in the New York City moonl- what's that? Many people on the Internet have already imagined superheroes doing this? OK then.
It's time we appreciated the valuable research into costume logistics contributed by the superhero porn community.
How Is Everyone Getting Around Los Angeles?
It's no secret that a disproportionate number of movies are set in Los Angeles. What is apparently a big secret, though, is Los Angeles traffic, also known as the worst thing in America. LA is a city of car lovers with a road system suitable for a village of underground burrowing mole people, and it's been like that for decades.
Pictured: A typical Los Angeles high-speed chase scene.
Every movie that takes place in LA, however, has people rushing around on roads that are as clear and empty as rural Australia in 1937. In the opening scenes of Drive, criminals cruise around downtown LA during the evening for seven minutes without a single traffic jam and barely any missed lights, despite being right next to the venue of a major basketball game. Has this actually happened before to anyone ever? Did this take place in an alternative universe where some sort of Autobot God raptured all the good cars away?
Pictured: Los Angeles, six months after the giant sky-magnet took all the cars to his holy realm.
The same questions apply to dozens of other LA-set movies. How did the soldiers drive down that freeway in a bus in Battle Los Angeles? If aliens did come and bomb LA and everybody tried to flee by car, would anyone notice any difference? How did John Connor (riding a motorcycle) flee from the T-1000 (driving an 18-wheeler) through LA's streets in Terminator 2 and not escape within like three seconds? The only reason anyone chooses to take part in the chess game with Death that is motorcycle riding in LA is that a motorcycle is usually the only thing on the street that is actually moving.
Who Is Waxing These People?
At least 80 percent of white males have at least some hair on their upper bodies, and the chances of growing it increase as the man gets older. But you wouldn't know that if you went by movies and television, where a healthy growth of manfur is about as common as having an actual bear attached to your chest.
"You others merely adopted the hairless look. I was born in it, molded by it.
I didn't even have pubes until I was already a man." -Bane
I guess Kirk there might have undergone some futuristic genetic engineering, and Tony Stark could be getting a servant to trim his man-garden. But why is Bruce Wayne as soft and hairless as a baby? Maybe he got embarrassed because a lot of the other men in the League training camp were Asians with less natural body hair, and so he shaved it off by himself while weeping quietly in the bathroom. What about Bane? Were his minions so happy to throw themselves into death because it meant an escape from Wednesday-morning Upper Arm Duty? Is Hollywood just terrified of alienating the profitable teenage demographic by showing them the cruel realities of the adult male body?
"And then you have to start sticking a little spinning razor up your nose
so the people at work stop calling you Snot Mangrove Harry."
Which brings us to ...
What Do All These Sexy People Smell Like?
Chances are, if the movie you're watching is not an Oscar-humping tale about a family struggling to come to terms with their son dressing up in a fox suit, it will have at least one scene in which the male lead works up a patina of manly sweat. Movie-sweat says hard work, it says ingenuity, it says "I've spent all night crawling around in air ducts to save my wife from terrorists and I've accumulated so much man-voltage that liquid testosterone is dripping from my pores." For example, here's James Bond, looking manly as hell in Casino Royale:
And now you're pregnant. All of you.
This look was popular with audiences (you can find men online dressing up in copycat shirts to impress the ladies), which seems OK until you consider that Mr. Bond here has just chased a guy across half a city, in the middle of the day, in Madagascar, and in real life he must smell like a slab of raw goat meat left in a gym sock. If a character is spending any time inside a superhero costume, he'll have it even worse: anything that sits that close to your warm, damp skin for a long time is going to stink and give you a nasty fungal infection.
Tony Stark's lower body is covered in contagious weeping sores, and not for the reasons you'd think.
And these are men who have access to underarm deodorant and frequent bathing. What about characters from time periods or worlds with pre-modern hygiene standards? Aragorn from Lord of the Rings recently came in at number one in a "Sexiest Male Movie Characters" poll, even though he literally sleeps in the woods most of the time and probably smells worse than the hobo who keeps stealing your dog food. Hell, Pirates of the Caribbean actually has a scene where Jack Sparrow leans in close to another character who recoils in visible disgust at what must be a fetid waft of unwashed pirate and mildewed dreadlocks. And Jack still came in at number two in that same poll. The human brain just isn't very imaginative about smell, even when fictional worlds are shoving it in our face.
In real life, nothing in this picture is something that you want shoved in your face.
And when you think about it, movie-universe anosmia has played a huge role in creating the picture that comes to mind when the average person imagines "desirable masculinity." We are a society that is perhaps less likely than any other in history to encounter the true scent of unwashed labor, and we've built our idea of male sexiness on the fact that most of us will only ever encounter cowboys or warriors in an odor-free movie environment. If smell had been introduced to films along with sound in the 1920s, today's action heroes would do nothing but coyly splash each other during hot baths and occasionally go to aromatherapy appointments.
"Don't shoot him with that lavender oil gun! It's NOT ORGANIC!"
C. Coville's Twitter is here.